And after six days Jesus took along Peter and James and John his brother, and took them up into a high mountain by themselves. And He was transformed before them, and His face shown as the sun, and His garments became white as the light. And look, appeared to Him Moses and Elijah speaking together with Him. And responding, Peter said to Jesus, "Lord, it is excellent for us to be here; If you wish, I will make here three tents, for You one, and for Moses one, and for Elijah one." He still speaking, look, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and look, a voice out of the cloud saying, "This is My Son, the Beloved, in Whom I have been well pleased! You, be listening to Him! And hearing, the disciples fell upon their faces and were greatly afraid. And having come forward, Jesus also touched them; He said, "Arise, and stop fearing." And having lifted up their eyes, they saw no one, except Jesus Himself, alone. And they, having come down out of the mountain, Jesus commanded them, saying, "Tell to no one the vision until the Son of Man is risen from the dead.
Like Miley Montana, (or was it Van Halen) we always seem to be hoping for the best of both worlds, a little bit of heaven here on earth. Paradise seems so far away at times, and we (like Belinda Carlisle) wish that heaven were a place on earth. Jesus' disciples were no different. Imagine their surprise when those very hopes were realized upon the mount of transfiguration. Jesus manifested his heavenly glory with two of the residents of paradise above, before the very eyes of Peter, James and John! The caught a brief glimpse of heaven come down upon the earth, and they not sure what to do about it.
Much to do has been made about the appearance of Moses and Elijah on transfiguration mount. Some see Moses as representing the Law, and Elijah the Prophets, but what of the writings? Where is Psalm-writer David or Proverb maker Solomon? Others stress the importance of these men having physical bodies in heaven, Elijah carried up behind the fiery chariot, and Moses' body being won for heaven by the archangel Michael. But what of Enoch who walked with God, and then was not? Couldn't he come too?
The point of these men coming down to speak with Jesus is simply that they were heavenly personages. Conversations Jesus could have had with them in heaven before His incarnation were now able to continue. The Lord spoke with them about the things of heaven, in particular, how He would give Himself up unto death on the cross so that the many rooms in His Father's heavenly mansion would be filled with new residents of paradise, along with Moses and Elijah. Heavenly words for heavenly citizens.
Yet, Peter thought he had a good plan. He wanted to somehow extend these heaven-on-earth moment indefinitely, by erecting tents for Jesus, Moses and Elijah to reside in for a while. Foolish Peter. What did heaven-dwellers need with earthly habitations? Yet we sympathize with Peter's sentiment, wanting this glorious event to continue on longer in this valley of tears and sorrows called planet earth. You might even feel a longing yourself for that kind of heaven on earth event to take place in your own life.
But it might surprise you to realize that God has heaven on earth moments for you in your life already! The first one was probably at your baptism, where Jesus Himself came down from heaven to cleanse you of your sin in the font, and to make your born again as an eternal resident of paradise above! Oh, I know that you didn't see Jesus' glorious face that day, but He was there speaking and acting just the same. His words gave to you the Name of the Triune God as your own, now and forevermore!
Many other heaven on earth moments have occurred in your lifetime, sometimes without you realizing it. In the Word of God read to you by parents and SS teachers, Jesus Himself came down from heaven to speak to you in the most loving and caring words of salvation directly to you. In confirmation and Bible classes Jesus came to teach you from that same Word, to catch your head up to where your heart has been believing. In sermons like this one, Jesus has come down to proclaim you forgiven on Calvary.
Perhaps the most amazing heaven on earth moments are the intimate experiences at the communion rail. The ever-living body of Jesus comes down from the right hand of His Father's heavenly thrown for you to eat in the bread; and your Savior's life-giving blood which flows now in His veins above comes down to quench your thirst for righteousness as you drink from the cup. Jesus is really present for you in the Lord's Supper–there to forgive your sins, and thus save you and give you life everlasting.
You have the best of both worlds. You have heaven-on-earth in Jesus' Word proclaimed and in His holy Sacraments given and received. Rejoice that it is excellent to be here with Jesus in worship today. Amen.
Hymns for the day from LSB:
#537 Beautiful Savior
#413 O Wondrous Type! O Vision Fair!
#414 How Good Lord to be Here